Unpaid interns now guarded from sexual harassment

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill this week introduced by Berkeley Assemblymember Nancy Skinner protecting unpaid interns and volunteers from sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Assembly Bill was signed by the governor on Tuesday, expanding Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights to include people in the workplace who are not paid and protect them against workplace sexual harassment in California.

Skinner said basic civil rights should be extended to all:

 

“Interns and volunteers deserve a safe, fair workplace and the same legal protections against discrimination and harassment as everyone else.”

The bill was introduced shortly after a federal district court in New York last year ruled that the law does not apply to unpaid interns because, technically, they are not employees.

The New York case involved a Syracuse University student who alleged that she was sexually harassed, groped and kissed by a supervisor at her media company internship, who retaliated against her after she refused his sexual advances, Skinner said.

California is now the third state in the country to explicitly ban sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace directed toward unpaid interns.

The new California law also includes protection against discrimination based on gender. New York, Oregon and the District of Columbia have similar laws, Skinner said.

In a 2008 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employees, half of all graduating students had held internships while in college. And most of the students engaging in unpaid internships are women, according to a 2012 survey of college students by the consulting firm Intern Bridge.

Skinner said:

 

“No one should give up their basic civil rights just because they are willing to forgo pay for experience,”